While I was super stoked to reveal the original cover that Mike sent me for A WAR TO END ALL, clearly some stuff went down a little over a week ago.
Below, Mike has highlighted the entire story for you guys (in case you hadn’t seen it shared across social media already) and I cannot wait to see what artist he chooses for the ACTUAL cover for A WAR TO END ALL and absolutely CANNOT wait to share that cover with you peeps 🙂
A WAR TO END ALL COVER REVEAL
Well, this is not the post I wrote to go with the cover reveal and the cover you’re going to see below is not the one I thought I’d be revealing. But here we are, and onward we march.
I’m going to tell you a little story and talk a bit about the rather misnamed Artificial Intelligence.
Sometime in April I began looking for an artist to do the cover for A WAR TO END ALL, the last book in the Manifest Delusions series, as well as for another project I’m not ready to talk about. I’d been lurking on Artstation looking for artists and reaching out to a few. Some were out of my budget while others were too busy to take on new work. And then I caught sight of BOB THE WIZARD by M.V. Prindle. The style wasn’t at all what I wanted for A WAR TO END ALL, but it was perfect for the other project. I reached out to Matthew (the author) looking for contact info for the artist and then chatted directly with the artist.
I have opinions on AI generated images. First, there’s no actual intelligence involved. These images are not art. Instead, they are created by mindless algorithms that have trolled the internet for content and then been taught by all the folks who played with the free Midjourney. Remember how it gave you four image options to choose from? That was you training the algorithms. This is not accusatory. I was right there with you. It wasn’t until later that I understood what was going on. AI generated images are taken from the work of actual artists and then altered enough that there’s (technically) no copyright infringement. The legal side of this is beyond the scope of my knowledge and my opinions there are limited. And so, we’ll ignore them.
Despite briefly thinking, Gee, wouldn’t it be nice not to have to pay for cover art, once I understand what was going on I couldn’t, in good conscience, use such images. I wiped them off my webpage and deleted my Midjourney account. You can call that an overreaction, and that’s fine. I’d rather overreact than not react at all.
Because the writers are next.
And that strikes a little close to home.
DOOM! GLOOM! It’s the end of the world!
I decided I’d suck it up and keep hiring artists to do my covers. Limited as my artistic skills are, I love fantasy art. Richard Anderson, John Anthony Di Giovanni, and Felix Ortiz, have all done incredible book covers for me and they (the art, not the artists) hang in my house. Hanging artists in your house is wrong; I know that now. Their work has played a huge part in my success. Their covers sell books. For whatever reason, I have no interest in hanging computer generated images in my home. Yeah, I’m old fashioned. Whatever. It’s my house.
And so, I talked to the (new to me) artist and explained that under no circumstances were AI generated images acceptable. I also hate stock photo manipulation art on fantasy covers, but that’s a me-problem. Tons of folks love them.
The artist did the first book cover and nailed the vibe I was looking for. After that, I asked if he could do a cover that wouldn’t look out of place in the Manifest Delusions series. He agreed to give it a try.
Book covers were done.
An artist got paid.
And then BOB THE WIZARD won the SPFBO book cover competition and shit blew up.
There was drama far superior to your favourite soap opera. Folks became emotional on both sides.
Away from my computer and drinking beer at a buddy’s place while the kids played in the pool, I was lucky enough to miss most of the early conflagration. By the time I saw the kerfuffle, I was more interested in going to bed than wading into a shitstorm of controversy. I had a few panicked hours where I learned that there are online apps that will (probably) tell you if an image was (maybe) created by a computer. I checked the covers done for me, and sure enough, they contained computer-generated images combined with work from the artist. I mumbled something on Twitter about needing to put some thought into the fallout from all this, and then didn’t sleep a wink I was so wound up.
I’d already set up pre-orders for A WAR TO END ALL and Amazon is not okay with folks cancelling pre-sales. If you fuck that up, they take away your ability to do future pre-orders. Perhaps not the end of the world, but also not an insignificant consideration. On top of that, you don’t really start selling books until after the cover reveal when people can get a look at what they’re buying.
All this went down May 27th and 28th and I’m writing this on the 29th. I already had this cover reveal booked with David for June 5th. There’s also the Advance Review Copies (ARCs) that are supposed to go out to reviewers in early July. All the artists I know are crazy busy; no way they could ‘sneak a cover in there.’ Most of them are too busy to get a cover done before the official September release.
I needed to make a choice. I could use the art I’d already paid for, or I could commission new art.
Clayton (who co-wrote A WAR TO END ALL) and I talked it over. Neither of us wanted to use the art now that we knew the truth. He suggested we run a GoFundMe to help cover some of the cost of hiring a new artist, which I pooh poohed because I have issues asking for and accepting help. As Clayton is about nine feet taller than me, we compromised and did it his way.
Clayton put together the GoFundMe and, for the hell of it, here’s the link:
COVER ART FIASCO – GOFUNDME – https://gofund.me/35aee2eb
Stunningly, we hit our goal within a couple hours of going live. We decided anything over the goal we’d spend hiring an artist to do interior illustrations. The book is gonna be illustrated! No idea how much, we’ll see what happens.
The next few years are going to be interesting for those of us trying to make a living in the arts. AI will continue to improve. The art will get better, and it will become impossible to tell if it’s human or AI created. AI will write short stories and then novellas and then crank out entirely readable novels. And it’s going to happen sooner than most folks believe. We will have to make some decisions about what we value. If a picture is beautiful or a story entertaining, do you care where it came from?
Anyway, I’ve babbled too much already.
It’s time for the grand reveal of the A WAR TO END ALL cover art that will only be the cover art until we’ve got the new cover art from someone with actual talent!
And now, the full front and back cover spread!
Pre-Order A WAR TO END ALL: https://mybook.to/A_War_to_end_all
Paperback will be available on release day, with audiobooks following soon after.
Find Michael R. Fletcher
Find Clayton Snyder